I was in a unicorns and rainbows adoption group for two months. It came up in discussion that yes, a child’s birthmother is her mother, and that child is her birthmother’s daughter. So, the birthmother can say, “My daughter,” and “mom” and be correct.
One person staunchly fought this. Her children have one set of parents and one only. So, I asked the Creating a Family group this question:
How many parents do adoptees have?
CAF has adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoptees. I asked the adoptive parents to ask their children for their opinions as well.
The vast majority (about 26) answered two sets. Several more (9) answered three sets, including step-parents or foster parents in their answers. About 12 people answered an unspecified number more than one, often saying, “As many as the child wants.” The bottom line: All but five people said adoptees have more than one set of parents.
Four adoptees stated that they each have only one set of parents – their adoptive parents. Two of them were in closed adoptions. One is also an adoptive parent, and she considers her children to have two sets of parents. Only one adoptive parent said she was the only parent her child has.
One late-discovery adoptee doesn’t consider his adoptive parents to be parents at all.
My personal opinion is that adoptees have at least two sets of parents. What they call them – mom, mama whatever, or first name – isn’t as important as recognizing that there are other parents in their lives. I’ve read a lot of adult adoptees saying that their adoptive parents – usually their adoptive mothers – never acknowledged their birth families, basically preventing them from having any noticeable feelings about their birth parents, a fact that really, truly hurt them. I know I never want my kids to feel that way, and I would hope other adoptive parents would agree.
In conclusion, I think the best answer came from Lisa, an adult adoptee, who said:
“The adults make the labeling of important people far too difficult. It really is not hard for children to comprehend who is who and call them whatever they want. A label does not take away from anyone or anything.”